This is the eighth of twelve installments in a story that follows a new Scoutmaster, Chuck Grant, attempting to use the patrol method in a troop that has forgotten how.
I’ve based this work of fiction on the stories shared by readers and listeners, questions they have asked, and the advice I commonly share in reply. Scoutmasters can expect to encounter challenges and setbacks along the way.
I’ve tried to avoid being unreasonable optimistic, or overly pessimistic about the progress we can make when we stick to the basics.
“What happens when we get to the park?” I asked the Scouts as we drove to my first camping trip as their Scoutmaster.
Jake answered first, “Mm, I guess we set up tents?”
Jake, our senior patrol leader, was in the passenger seat. Our brand new quartermaster, Alex, was in the back seat with Bob, leader of the Fox patrol.
“Setting up tents is among the first few things, for sure,” I said, “but think, step-by-step what happens when we pull into the parking lot.”
“You put on the brakes, stop the car, and turn off the ignition!” said Bob from the back seat.
“That’s a little more ‘step by step’ than I was thinking,” I laughed, “but you’re getting the right idea.”
“I guess everybody gets out of the cars first?” Jake said.
“Then what happens?” I asked.
“We have to get our gear, right?” added Alex.
As we drove along we discussed each step along the way between pulling into the parking lot and getting into our tents for the night, and the Scouts formed a plan of action.
“Okay then, Jake, I’ll show you and Alex the campsites,” I reiterated, “Bob will get his patrol together along with the other patrol leaders, unload the cars, and then…”
“Everybody picks up their packs and I show them where their campsite is.” said Jake.
“When we get there the first job is setting up tents.” Bob continued, “I should be walking around making sure tents are getting set up, and helping when somebody needs me to.”
“Bob,” I said, “I am glad you remembered what we were talking about.”
“No problem Mr. G!” he replied.
“That’s important enough to go over one more time,” I said, “if you are going to lead something like setting up tents do your best to keep you head up looking around watching how things are going.”
“Yeah, if you are concentrating on setting up a tent, I suppose it would be hard to get everybody else doing it.” said Alex.
“That’s the plan” I said, “what you’ll learn, guys, is that you have to think two or three steps ahead of things to lead your Scouts, this weekend will be good practice.”
“I made up the schedule for tomorrow like you asked,” Jake said, “I hope it works.”
“Your schedule is kind of like a map,” I said, “and the day is like the terrain you are covering, does that make sense?” I asked.
“Yeah, I can see that,” Jake replied.
“There’s just one thing, though,” I added, “you’ll find out that the ground may be changing as you move along, something may take longer than you thought, or what you planned may have to change.”
“Uh-huh” Jake said.
“How you respond when circumstances change your plans is what really makes a leader.” I observed.
“The park is right down this road,” I announced, “follow the plan you’ve come up with and we’ll be fine.”
We pulled into the parking lot. After Jake gave the patrol leader’s some instructions, and I spoke with my assistant Scoutmasters, I led Jake and Alex down a trail nearby.
“You can put the third patrol over here,” I said, “and the other two near the first and second fire rings we saw. The adults will all be up where we first came in. That’s where you and Alex can set up too”
Jake and Alex nodded in agreement and we turned back, our headlamps lighting the way along the trail towards the parking lot.
Scouts were milling around, camping gear was everywhere, and as I approached, I heard a familiar voice, “Okay, so get your backpacks and we’ll follow them, Scouts!?! SCOUTS!!”
I quickened my pace a little and caught assistant Scoutmaster George Hudson in mid bellow, “Mr. Hudson?”
“YES SIR!” George shouted as he delivered his comic salute.
“Mr. Hudson,” I continued a little quieter, “the senior patrol leader knows what happens next, let’s you and I walk over here.”
“See that, you big galoot,” said Wayne, another assistant Scoutmaster, as he followed us, “I told you he said to wait until he got back.”
“Play nice now boys,” quipped Dave Katz, yet another assistant Scoutmaster leaning against his truck, “the boss is back, so play nice.”
“I don’t know whose worse,” I said, “you three or the Scouts.”
“Definitely us,” said George, “so what’s going on?”
“Jake, Alex, and I scouted out the patrol campsites,” I explained, “The Scouts are moving their packs down there now. They will be back up to grab their food and patrol gear, so let’s help Dave empty his truck.”
Alex, our quartermaster, appeared out of the darkness, “Are we ready yet?”
“I figure we’ll make three piles of gear for each patrol,” I explained, “and then you’ll work with them to make sure they get all their stuff down to their campsites, sound good?”
“Sure,” Alex replied.
“Remember, Mr. Quartermaster, I am expecting you to keep an eye on all of this gear,” Dave said to Alex, “you have a big job to do this weekend.”
“Right, Mr. Katz.” Alex replied.
“Oh, so now I see,” George said “Dave’s your favorite, he can talk to Scouts but I can’t huh?”.
“Exactly,” I replied, “little more lifting, little less talking Mr. Hudson, there’s a truck to unload.”
George saluted, “Yes SIR!”
Within an hour or so the campsites were set up, us four adults were sitting around our campfire.
“Jeez, how far away are those guys,” Wayne asked nobody in particular.
“Close enough to keep track of them, far enough to let them do for themselves.” I replied.
“Sitting here just watching is turning out to be a lot more difficult than I thought,” said George, “and that’s odd because, usually, I like to sit around doing nothing.”
“It’s kind of worrying,” added Wayne, “I hope they figure things out.”
“After last Monday, I’m happy we got here at all,” I said, “things didn’t go as smoothly as I had hoped, did they?”
“That’s not too unusual,” Dave said with a smile, “it’s never easy to begin with, and it’s never all that simple, huh?”
“Tell me about it.” I replied.
At that moment we saw lights bobbing towards us and heard the thrashing of leaves as the Scouts came up from their sites. A few moments later they had gathered around our campfire.
“Jake, is everybody here?” I asked.
Jake started counting heads.
“Jake?” I whispered.
“Yeah?” he replied.
“You have patrol leaders?” I said quietly.
“Oh yeah,” he smiled, ”Almost forgot, Patrol leaders is everyone in your patrol here?”
“What? Oh, two, three, four, five… yes!”
“Jake may I talk to everyone for a minute?” I asked.
“Sure,” he replied, “Hey guys, quite down for a minute. Mr. Grant?”
“Thanks, Jake.” I began, “As you know each patrol has a campsite all to yourselves, and that means you are being trusted, and that’s something I want to talk about. What’s the difference between a boy and a Scout?”
The Scouts all answered at once, and somewhere in there I heard what I was looking for.
“Who said ‘the Scout Law’ ?” I asked, “Hunter, was that you?
“Yes!” Hunter replied.
“Well that’s exactly what I was looking for! Thank you! What’s the first point of the Scout law Hunter?”
“Trustworthy!” he said.
“Exactly, Since a Scout can be trusted, I know I can trust each of you because you are Scouts. I know that I don’t have to worry that you’ll misbehave because… anybody?”
Max answered hesitatingly, “we’re Scouts?”
“Precisely, Max! I don’t have to be concerned that you’ll disobey your senior patrol leader or patrol leaders because…”
Several Scouts answered this time, “We’re Scouts!”
“That’s more like it,” I was getting somewhere, “I didn’t go camping with a rag-tag bunch of boys this weekend, because…”
“WE’RE SCOUTS!” They all replied.
Read the rest of the story in my new book: